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Cracking down on the pop-ups.

Some have called them the scourge of the Internet: those annoying pop-up and pop-under ads that accompany numerous sites. Although AOL and Earthlink have vowed to banish them, Mars-based Tooto Technologies provides an easier route than switching service providers. Company founder Digger Chen talks about reducing the prevalence of pop-ups.

What made you decide to start a company devoted to killing pop-up ads and spam?

I hate pop-ups. So I wrote a little, smart program that automatically blocked those annoying ads but didn’t interfere with the normal browser windows. I used it a lot and give it to my friends because they had the same problem.

One day, one of my friends told me, “Why don’t make it as shareware? Seems there is a large demand for this kind of software.” After several days of thought and preparation, I published the first version of Zero Popup and got a lot of downloads the first day and lots of kudos from happy users.

As the sales increased, I decided to start up a company that develops small, smart, useful niche software. The first direction we chose was to make the Internet peaceful, private, and secure. So we developed several shareware titles that filter junk e-mail, stop pop-ups, and block spyware. The name of our company, Tooto, is from this phrase: “(TO) use our software, (O)r (TO) be frustrated.” We have an ambitious mission.

Your Zero Popup software uses intelligent agents; how does make you different from other pop-up killers?

It is easy to keep the browser from opening a new window. The difficult part is to determine which new window is an annoying pop-up ad, and which one is a useful page.

We differentiate from other pop-up killers by blocking almost all the annoying pop-up ads, but almost never blocking a useful new window. Our users are very pleased with this smart feature. Another feature to make us outstanding is that our software is very small in size, less that 100k, and uses little memory to run.

Also, the ease of use makes users very happy too. Zero Popup automatically starts when a user starts up Internet Explorer. The intelligent agents technology means our system employs a neural network algorithm that improves as someone uses it, because the software can observe and learn from the user’s behaviors.

You also sell Internet Spy Hunter. Do you think most users aren’t aware of spyware and its kind? If so, how do you get the word out about these nasty applications?

You are right. Most users aren’t aware of spyware. We realize this, and are trying hard to get users to see this problem. But we don’t have breakthroughs on this problem like there are with pop-ups and spam. As time goes on, more and more users will be aware of this problem, and I think they will turn to us for help because of our good reputation brought from Zero Popup and Zero Spam.

What kinds of challenges or difficulties did you find in developing these software applications?

The first challenge is to choose which software to develop. Our philosophy is that we have to develop the software that we can use every day ourselves. If we don’t use it every day, the other people won’t use it, either.

The second challenge is marketing. We are trying very hard to get our software recognized in the market. Zero Popup is very popular and we received lots of kudos. A significant portion of downloads are from word-of-mouth. One headache for us after our software becomes a brand name is that some other software developers create a similar but low-quality product with a very similar name, such as “Popup Zero Pro” or “Popup Ad Zero.” It confuses customers.

The third challenge is the fight with pirates, which is a problem for most software developers. But it’s worth the challenges, because we like the feeling of making our users happy. To get lots of kudos from users is what keeps us happy, and keeps us developing.

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